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2016 Seattle Asian American Film Festival

Interview with Chanthadeth Chanthalangsy, Director of Chanthadeth

Posted February 15th, 2016 by shaunmejia in 2016 Festival

Chanthadeth at SAAFF2016

Chanthadeth at SAAFF2016

Chanthadeth grew up hating his name. Although he was born of Lao and Cambodian parents, he grew up with his Cambodian mother and did not connect with his Lao relatives. In this documentary, Chanthadeth explores his bicultural identity and learns the importance of acknowledging both of his cultural heritages. We got a chance to talk to Chanthadeth about his documentary.

1. What do you think is missing from current representation of Asian American’s in media?

What I think is missing from the current representation of Asian Americans in media is the struggle of Asian identity. We have actors like Ken Jeong, Donnie Yen, and Steven Yuen representing their culture through television or film. Although they are great actors, all of them are East Asian. Meaning that their performances on the big screen would leave viewers with a skewed perception of Asians in general. Having more public figures of Southeast Asian descent would lessen the East Asian bias in today’s media. Although it’s easy to say, it’s difficult for this change to happen because majority of Southeast Asian Americans lack the resources and skills to compete for acting roles and such. The closest person I would say that is a Southeast Asian figure would be Timothy Delaghetto and even he doesn’t represent all of Southeast Asia.

2. Who are your influences? Film related or not. 

Personally, I don’t have a specific person or public figure that influences me. It may sound cliché but I would have to say that my family is my influence. They helped shape my values, took care of me but most importantly, provided me with better opportunities they didn’t have. My family was forced to travel to America because of the wars in Southeast Asia. If it weren’t for their strength and resilience, I would not be here today. This is one of the main reasons why I want to pursue higher education, to honor my family and make them proud.

3. How did you come up with your concept?

At first, the film was a personal narrative I wrote during my senior year of high school. I didn’t know what to do with it but one of my group mentors for the Southeast Asian Young Men’s Group thought my narrative was powerful and thought it would be a good idea to turn it into a documentary. My group mentor created several documentaries in the past with the program and majority of those films had a high emphasis on storytelling. I also had some film experience and the storytelling aspect influenced me to interview my parents about their past. Although their interviews was brief, their narrative had a positive effect on my film’s storytelling. Overall, my documentary’s concept is as simple as a personal essay.

4. What advice do you have for other young Asian Americans dealing with identity issues associated with their “traditional” names, especially those without access to programs like the ACRS? 

My advice for other Southeast Asian youth facing cultural identity issues is to know where your roots are and have interest in knowing where your roots are. For youth that don’t have access to resources like Asian Counseling & Referral Services, I would suggest they get in touch with local organizations, create a cultural club at school or interview their families about their culture. All in all, the most important Southeast Asian youth can do is to be proud of their culture and the cultural significance behind their name.

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